Crime thriller ‘Valley of Bones’ wastes compelling premise

Although “Valley of Bones” features some potentially intriguing plot elements and a vivid backdrop, this earnest quasi-crime thriller, directed by Dan Glaser, takes too long to gain momentum and deliver the requisite action and suspense.

Set (and largely shot) in the badlands of North Dakota, “Bones” follows paleontologist-with-a-past Anna (Autumn Reeser) as she works to unearth a valuable dinosaur fossil with the help of her late husband’s mechanic-brother, Nate (Rhys Coiro); McCoy (Steven Molony), a low-rent meth addict with a prior claim on the treasure; and Anna’s sullen young son, Ezekiel (Mason Mahay).

But things go south for Anna when the desperate McCoy, who’s in deep debt to a Mexican drug ring (long story), decides to make off with the fossil and hand it to the cartel’s violent boss (Mark Margolis) in exchange for his life. Cue the belated tension.

Writers Glaser, Molony and Richard M. Lewis attempt to infuse meaningful dimension, back stories and themes into their script, aiming for a kind of western-meets-film noir vibe in the process. Unfortunately, the characters here simply aren’t all that compelling, plus Ezekiel’s fixation with his departed dad grows old. In addition, the practical aspects of archaeology feel underexplored.

Michael Alden Lloyd’s widescreen anamorphic lensing does justice to the film’s stunning locale.

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‘Valley of Bones’

Rating: R for violence, drug use, language and some nudity

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing: In general release

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